Sunday, August 14, 2011

Last Sunday together

“Throughout history, the dog-human relationship has shown that dogs can humanize us, and this is part of the magic unleashed in adopting a puppy…Something so simple as walking the dog takes us out of ourselves and reminds us that life’s beauty beckons to be acknowledged.” (from Dogs and Devotion).  As I write this afternoon the puppies are snoozing, tired from their busy day yesterday the highlights of which included a haircut, an evaluation and the first round of puppy shots.  All of us are moving a little slower today; my exhaustion is catching up with me and I am quite content gazing at them stretched out and napping on what will be our last Sunday all together.  Last night as they raced through the kitchen with Sophie charging after them there was pure joy in their antics.  Earlier this week, they each had their temperament “test” and it was of great interest to see them individually respond to the stimuli.  While there were some small variations among each of the pups, as a group, they were friendly, playful, curious, confident, interested in the toys, and for the most part, even retrieved a “ball” for the stranger-evaluator.  After evaluating each of the puppies’ structures and physical characteristics, and looking at their temperament results during this busy week, I am making some initial decisions about their homes.  At least one puppy will live with me as planned all along.  I’m pretty sure I know who it will be.  Without a doubt, the puppies and the experience of raising them to this point has been a tremendously satisfying and unexpectedly transforming experience.  For instance, for the first time, I heard today the sound that a puppy makes when he's snoring and his head is leaned into a water bowl.  The puppies have helped me see the comical in poop smeared all over a toy teddy bear or the endearing in the sweet gaze of a puppy sprawled out on his back with his legs in the air. Truly I will never look at a dog in the same way again.  I am thrilled to know that these amazing puppies who have spent nearly eight weeks in my home, will be adopted by the wonderful families I’ve met during these past weeks. During the next few days we will complete the remaining preparations for "adoption day" at the end of the week. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The great outdoors

August 7, 2011: The puppies at six weeks old have a comment for every situation.  Walk into the room to say hello?  A chorus of excited barks and cries greet you.  Walk out of the room to take care of business…the same yips and barks serenade you.  They eat and they play and they annoy each other.  They gnaw on the sides of the pen and on each other’s legs and tails.  Their play fighting is sometimes brutally fierce, but like kids they usually work things out after a brief episode. They continue to thrive in every way and are “outgrowing their pen” and so in the last week their world has expanded to introduce them to the great outdoors.  Like human babies, they appear to have fussy times every evening so out they go to race around their outdoor pen, and on one occasion thus far, to test out their baby pool.  So far, the bravest have leaned over the edge to take a drink, or to place one paw carefully in the water.  Grass is now something to chew and eat.  Airplanes flying overhead created a stir of worry the first time they heard this unfamiliar noise, but this loud sound is now an accepted part of life.  If the weather is not up to an outside visit, the puppies race from one end of the kitchen to the other end of the dining room.  Sophie played with them this week, chasing and batting them.  Visitors to the house are greeted with excitement.  After a visit of an hour or so, it’s time for a nap and then “we’re back at it.”  If there is one word I would use to describe the puppies it is ACTIVE.  We take many many photographs in order to have just a few good ones that are not blurry.  I have a new appreciation for breeders who somehow manage to line up an entire litter of puppies and take a photo that shows every puppy looking in the same direction! (photoshop?)  This week they’ll have their temperament tests.  This series of activities will expand our understanding of the puppies’ personalities and reactions to new situations and help us understand what homes and lifestyles might be best suited for each of them.  Seven weeks is an ideal time to conduct the tests since “EEG readings indicate that neurological development has reached adult levels, thus allowing us to obtain a true reading of their behavioral tendencies…if [the tests] are done later, between eight and ten weeks, pups will be in the fear period, making assessments of temperament subject to serious misinterpretation.” (p.76, Monks).  While I have some thoughts about each of the puppies, I’ll be curious to learn what someone who has never met the puppies will think.  While all of the puppies are affectionate and active, some will be more submissive, some will be more sociable, and some will be more sensitive and obedient than others. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

From puppy to dog...

July 28: A chorus of yips and cries begins sometime between 5 and 5:30am.  The puppies are up and anxious for breakfast.  The morning routine is a predictable schedule: Sophie goes out for a walk and then joins the pups so they can nurse. While Sophie is not visibly impatient with the pups, she is not especially interested in spending any extra time with them, beyond what is needed to let them nurse.  I shower and feed Sophie and begin heating goat milk to be added to the kibble which has been soaked and ground into manageable chunks.  The pups take a turn with the kibble and Sophie happily eats up the leftovers. The pups turned five weeks two days ago and they are little dogs now!  They play and cry and sleep and show affection-to each other and to me.  They are alternately cuddly and squirmy and are incessantly curious about everything that comes in and out of their pen.  Several bottom teeth have now appeared and when the pups were out of the pen playing during a recent evening we were “owwww-ing” our way through their play session as they bit at our ankles.  The pups are increasingly focused on each other and their interactions have begun to establish a hierarchy. The Monks note that “puppy play is anything but frivolous.  Not only does it develop muscle coordination but it also exposes the pups to spontaneous social situations they must learn to handle…Play-fighting is usually kept friendly, and, particularly early in this period, pups easily exchange roles as play-fights become highly ritualized periods of learning.” Sometimes the play-fighting leads to loud (and presumably fierce) growling.  More typically they chase each other around the pen, biting tails and climbing on top of each other.  After this period of intense play, each pup flops down for a nap. I try to introduce new toys to the pen every few days.  Today the favorite toy was a tiny stuffed animal which Little Pink claimed as her own.  Once puppies are well socialized to each other, they will enter more fully into the development of relationships with the people in their world.  This period of “socialization with people” as well as increased exposure to the bigger world is a critical part of the pups’ development between five and twelve weeks of age. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Birthday - we're four weeks old!

July 23: The pups turned four weeks old earlier in the week.  When I sat down to write this morning they were all sleeping in one large pile, surrounded by their toys.  Once they heard me at my desk they began to stir, and within minutes they are on the move--tugging on each others’ ears, tumbling and play-fighting (punctuated by fierce growls and indignant squeals), running to the side of the pen to greet me, and checking out their toys.  I rearrange the bedding in their pen and they are instantly curious.  Everybody arrives at the corner of the pen to observe this exciting new activity.  This morning they began to explore the spaces outside of their pen.  On the floor and out in the larger world, they moved in every direction, some heading for the kitchen, others behind the dining room curtains, and eventually Lime was discovered wedged into the corner of the dining room behind Sophie’s crate.  I call to them and they come at a run, tails wagging.  There is much interest in their toys and every few days I introduce something new.  Their top teeth have been coming in during the last week and in the next few days they will have their first taste of kibble, soaked in water and ground into small chunks since their teeth are still small.  After 15 minutes of exploration and much peeing on the kitchen and dining room floors, they begin to sleep where they lay so I scoop them up and return them to the pen.  Some seem to have favorite areas for napping. Navy has a special corner where he is often found alone, laying on a pile of teddy bears.  Little Pink has a favorite spot opposite on the fleece bed where she is often joined by a brother or sister. This morning it is Emerald whose head rests against LP’s belly.  The remaining siblings are in an opposite corner, laying on the grate of the pen. This is Lime’s favorite spot, his head tucked again a small towel.  Finally the fourth corner, which is covered by a small fleece pad, seems to be the spot where they most frequently relieve themselves. It's time to take some individual pictures of each of them to show how they have grown these past four weeks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Out of the box, into the world

July 17th::  Less that a day after writing my last post, Red Boy did indeed successfully scale the wall of the whelping box only to be rudely surprised by the fall to the floor--all was well after scared shrieks were calmed..  The next day two more siblings followed over the wall and by Friday, at 23 days old, the pups were moved to their puppy pen which will be their home for the next five weeks.  The pups quickly adapted to their new environment and Sophie continues to join them periodically to nurse and to visit.  Their nursing periods are shorter and often Sophie nurses while standing up. Later today we will introduce them to goat's milk, to be followed soon by kibble.  No teeth yet, but the hard bumps in their mouths signal that teeth will soon arrive. The pups are increasingly curious about the world around them.  A noise is heard outside of the pen and everyone is alert "what's going on?"  Tails are wagging and the talking continues: from musical trills and play growls as the siblings begin to play with each other to the moans and sighs that accompany their dreams.  Today I noticed for the first time that one of the puppies began to investigate a toy in the pen.  During these next weeks, their socialization experiences are critical to the development of their curiosity and confidence. 

Sharp toenails and new challenges

July 11th:  At the time it seemed like an idea with potential.  Sneak up on the puppies while they are sleeping and gently, oh so gently, slide the toenail clippers up to the tiniest toenails you have every seen and snip just a teeny bit of that sharp little claw.  Oh what a good idea - not!  I am not sure who is more traumatized-me, poor Navy who was the first of my "experiments" or Sophie who seemed very concerned about the anxious, high pitched crying coming from her previously happy and well adjusted brood.  I am relieved to report that Navy doesn't seem to have suffered any permanent damage-though I have yet to finish the task.  Despite the dangers now associated with grandma and her toenail clippers, the puppies have had an amazing week.  Their eyes are open and they are walking and "talking" (noisily and persistently) and attempting to scale the sides of the whelping box.  In a matter of days when I look in the box I expect to see five puppies; Red Boy, who seems to be the most adventurous, will be somewhere else.  As I write tonight, the puppies are drowsy after a good meal.  Sophie eats her nightly bowl of ice cream and then lays near by.  Red's head rests on Lim;e's shoulder.  Emerald and Navy are lying nose to nose.  O-Girl and Little Pink are off on their own, tucked under the ledge of the whelping box.  Asleep and awake they make the most amazing sounds.  Asleep they groan and stretch and yip and flail the air with their tiny paws.  Awake they coo and cry and grumble and squeal  When we approach the whelping box they stir and respond to our presence.  We continue to handle them regularly, flipping them on their backs (a mildly stressful experience) and then cuddling and calming them.  They nuzzle our hands and each other and are increasingly intent on exploring the world.

What do they see?

 July 5th:  12 days after birth the first tiny slits appear as puppies' eyes begin to open.  A day later, and all are in various stages with Red's eyes mostly open and Navy's eyes still mostly closed.  Even as their eyes open, their vision will be poor for some time.  "The Monks" refer to this next week of life as "transitional" signifying a "gradual transformation...from the newborn stage to the fully social existence of an adult."  During this next week, the puppies will begin to hear, will walk more purposefully (they're still staggering around, frequently tumbling and rolling over), will eliminate by themselves (already evident) and will become aware of each other as social beings.  Lime walked awkwardly around the whelping box this evening, trilling and squealing, repeatedly turning in circles and bumping his head against the ledge of the box.  Already I am checking to see that no puppy has yet managed to crawl out of the box, though that will happen soon enough!  The puppies' coats are noticeably lightening and Little Pink, Navy and Green's faces are an interesting combination of light and dark colors. 

Learning about the world....

  July 3rd: While the pups are still blind they will soon begin the process of opening their eyes.  Alexandra Horowitz, in her book "Inside a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know," notes that "as we see the world, the dog smells it." This is particularly evident watching the puppies find each other and their mother in the whelping box.  When we pick the puppies up, we cuddle them against us so that they can get to know us by the way we smell.  Their sounds, literally, still fall on deaf ears but soon, when their eyes open, their ears will begin to open up as well.  Some sounds, like squeals and yelps are high pitched and seem to occur when a puppy isn't sure where she is, the so-called "come find me" cries.  Other sounds according to Horowitz might simply be utterances without specific meaning, and are used instead to see how others respond.  Still other sounds--like a low pitched moan--are likened to a kind of dog purr.  Right now  Emerald is making a plaintive little cry, crawling in circles, just barely lifting herself onto her legs to stand briefly.  She eventually tucks in next to Red but is still complaining.  The other pups are mostly silent.  Lime lies on top of Red with Navy and O-Girl lined up head to toe.  All of a sudden, Lime makes a move, crawling between Navy and O-Girl.  The entire configuration of puppies realigns itself and everyone goes back to sleep. While much of their time is still spent sleeping, I've noticed more yawning and stretching as pups move between wake and sleep states.  The first poop begins to appear in the whelping box, something new for the pups to unknowingly crawl in. Up until now, Sophie kept them clean and helped with their bathroom functions. Mom rests nearby but is comfortable spending longer periods of time outside of the whelping box and enjoys her own walks rather than the brief out and in trips she made when the pups were first born. 

Squeaks and squeals

June 28th:   I woke this morning to a chorus of squeaks and squeals. The pups are up and busy scooting around the whelping box.  I'm beginning to notice them trying to stand up on their shaky legs, fat bellies toppling them over after every few attempts.  Nevertheless, when they are determined to get somewhere, they eventually do.  Red boy would not stay still for his picture last night and kept turning to go toward a corner of the whelping box--where? only he knows for sure..  They still move by scooting, using front or back legs to slide themselves determinedly from one place to another.  Last night when I came out to check on everybody around 1::30, Sophie was stretched out on her back, a few pups working hard to climb her belly which must have felt like a small mountain.  I can't tell the contented squeaks fromthe hungry squeaks but the "mom sat on me" squeals are definitely notable as are the indignant squeals signifying a meal rudely interrrupted. Every now and again a primitive "bark" emerges.  Sophie recognizes that not all sounds are equally urgent and sometimes takes her time to trot over and assess the situation..  This morning we weighed lime boy and I thought something was wrong with the scale until I raalized that he is the first pup to top a pound..  Navy lost his collar for the third time in a day and all I could imagine is that his prankster siblings wait until he falls asleep and then untie it when he can't defend himself.  Little Pink stands out in the litter as the puppy with the lightest coat..  Green girl's "french tip" nails offer an interesting contrast to her dark coat.  We handle the pups as often as we can, making a point of stroking their bodies and tummies, blowing softly in their faces and rubbing them against our skin.  All of the pups settle readily into these handling routines and seem to enjoy them, as do we.

Puppies are two days old

      June 24th: There is something sweetly intimate about sleeping next to mom and puppies.  Though the inflatable mattress, 24-hour warming light, sweltering heat needed to keep the puppies extra warm, and periodic squeaking of six puppies doesn't allow for much uninterrupted sleep, this time gives me a chance to quietly observe the interactions between Sophie and her puppies.  I have to admit I haven't given much thought to what puppies are like when they are just a few days old.  The pups' behaviors at this point are pure reflex--they are attracted to warmth, and scent and are motivated to find mom when they are hungry and heat when they are cold.  Observing mom's behavior makes very clear the role of instinct..  Sophie licks the puppies constantly--to draw them closer to her, to clean them and help them eliminate, and probably for other reasons of which I am not aware.  She leaves the whelping box only briefly, mostly to see what we are cooking in the kitchen and runs back quickly as soon as she hears the sound of a complaining baby.  During these first few days, most of our energy has been spent catching up on sleep (yes, I did find the half and half in the cupboard rather than the refrigerator today), trying to learn how to balance the work for my paid job with the ga-ga desire to watch the puppies crawl, fall over, crawl, fall over (problem solved, my desk is next to the whelping box), and trying to resist my inclination to interfere (the human helicopter mom I guess) when Sophie is sitting on a puppy and it is cryng pitifully.  It's time to begin watching the puppies to get a sense of their individual temperaments.  The vet thought that orange girl was especially vocal and sensitive when she was handled today.   How does green girl respond when handled?  What is little navy blue boy like when separated from mom?  Those are observations yet to be made.


June 22nd:  Finally, finally.  Six puppies  arrived this morning after a long and sleepless night.  They were due June 21st and thinking they would  come earlier than their due date,  I slept maybe 8 hours in the last three days, some of that time propped up in the whelping box.  Certainly no sleep last night.  I set the ipod on shuffle sometime around 11pm and after calling Susan at 6:45am to report that there were no puppies yet, turned around and within minutes Sophie's waterbag broke and orange girl made her appearance. Of course in my sleepless haze I proclaimed orange girl a boy and then knowing my judgment was undoubtedly impaired, did a recheck when her brother lime green arrived about 25 minutes later..  After the stress of my anticipation and Sophie's labor, the deliveries themselves were easy.  The pups weigh between 5.3 and 7.8 oz, are nursing well and mom has settled in contentedly.  I am reviewing  The Art of Raising a Puppy's fabulous chapter on how puppies develop during their first thirteen days of life.